VILNIUS, Aug 05, 2003 BNS

Nazi hunter Zuroff proposes puzzle for Lithuanian law enforcement to solve


The famous Nazi-hunter Efraim Zuroff says he possesses data about two Jewish families killed in Lithuania's eastern district of Rokiskis during World War II, Lithuanian law enforcement officers, however, fail to detect the traces of this crime.

Zuroff received the information from a resident of Lithuania that Jewish families -- the Jofes and the Olkins -- were killed in Panemunelis village in August 1941 and information about 4 suspects. The information was sent to Lithuanian law enforcement officers in July earlier this year.

Panevezys branch of the State Security Department launched investigation into the crime on receiving the information; the investigation is organized by Panevezys area prosecutor's office.

Prosecutor Romualdas Valiulis, responsible for the pre-trial investigation, told BNS that so far neither the security officers nor the prosecutors were able to find the traces of the crime Zuroff referred to.

" We inquired all the archives; besides, security officers went to Panemunelis village and questioned local residents but that did not bring much success: everybody has heard something but nobody knows exactly. Besides, we cannot find the informant, we know the first letter of his name and the family name," the prosecutor said.

" We have no clue. We decided to write a letter to E. Zuroff to inform that the investigation is underway but we need some additional data about the person who presented the information. Without the person's evidence we cannot achieve anything," Valiulis said.

In the prosecutor's words, there are many people with this family name in Lithuania, therefore the officers fail to find the person; adding that the officers failed to find the crime scene because the area referred to in Zuroff's letter has changed beyond recognition over the past 60 years. The persons suspected with murdering the Jewish families have not been detected.

Lithuania is subject to Zuroff's criticism for making minimum progress in the prosecution of Holocaust perpetrators. In July 2002, the Nazi-hunter Zuroff presented the initiative, called Operation: Last Chance and offered a prize of 10,000 US dollars for information allowing to bring war criminals to trial. The prize would be given for valuable information allowing bringing to trial and sentencing a Nazi criminal.

Special Investigations Division at the Prosecutor General's Office head Rimvydas Valentukevicius told BNS, Zuroff had presented some information during the past years but most data were ungrounded.

" Zuroff's information might be interesting for historiography or archives but unfortunately it does not meet the requirements of legal evaluation and cannot help to bring suspects to justice," Valentukevicius said earlier.

Under the requirements of the new Criminal Procedure Code, all the data received were processed and pre-trial investigation was launched.

Nazis and their local perpetrators massacred about 90 percent of Lithuania's pre-war Jewish population of 220,000 during the World War II.